No to ‘Corridor’

[Following is a press release issued by the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) Bihar]

Land rights activists from Six states—Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Delhi and Gujarat—converged in the city of Gaya responding to a call given by local affected farmers and activists who are facing the onslaught of oppressive capitalist development in the name of 'corridor'. After the year 1991, many destructive policies have been formulated in the name of development. The policy of 'Corridors' is the latest in this line which threatens to grab millions of acres of fertile agricultural land and give it away to foreign companies at throw away prices.

Raj Kumar Ji, an 85-year-old veteran farmer leader who has also fought in India's war of Independence highlighted the plight of local farmers whose multi-crop lands have been notified for EDFC acquisition despite threat of food security concerns in new land acquisition act, 2013. Raj Kumar Ji has also been in the forefront of struggle against the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2015.

Mahendra Yadav, Convener (NAPM Bihar) organized the meeting and pointed out that in Jehanabad, Land is being acquired on a mere compensation amount of Rs 3200 despite of its market value of Rs 16 lakhs. This has also exposed the tricks of govt. to fool the poor people and take away lands to favour some of the private companies. People are fighting for their land, environment, natural resources and lastly their livelihood. 16 barrages are also planned on the River Ganga.

Sagar Rabari, who has led successful farmer's struggles in Gujarat stressed on the fact that agriculture is highly profit intensive activity as proved many times by different farming communities of Gujarat with the help of cooperatives. The subsidies claimed by the Government, most of that, actually reach to fertilizer companies only and in contrast the tax and other benefits to private companies in the name of manufacturing boost amounts to 4-5 times more than the whole subsidy given to agriculture. Many successful co-operative experiments in agriculture have proved the economic viability of agriculture, which also supports a large population and also provide employment to a large section of people, which industries cannot even imagine to do so. Also questioned the availability of surface water, when Govt. showing them unable to do so for irrigation and other public purposes. River linking is also done to make ways for private companies so that goods can be transported easily ignoring the fact of hydrology and risks attached with massive attempt to disturb the natural ecosystem of each river.

Partho Sarathi Roy, a member of Sanhati who has published one of the earliest articles on the Amritsar-Delhi- Kolkata Industrial Corridor (ADKIC), based it on a trickle of information that was leaked from the meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Group who proposed the ADKIC. Partho pointed out that in this crucial meeting, members of Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change were absent. It gives a glimpse of the ideals and principles under which these projects will be undertaken.

Rishit Keogi (Researcher, NAPM) questioned the validity of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in which taxpayers pay the initial cost for trunk infrastructure and later private players reap the profits.

Rajendra Ravi (NAPM, Delhi) mocked the Single-Window Clearance System for corporations and asked why there are uncountable windows for a single RTI filed? He hailed Corridors as the new area of imeprial aggression, which will make private companies, new kings and queens. Govt. is providing the bits & pieces of major information in public domain so that they can easily sail through and fools the poor people of India. After the making of 17-18 corridors proposed, there will be a major dearth of land even for accommodating the population of India which itself raises the question on the largest democracy of India.

Representatives of Video Volunteers, Devashish and Ajit Bahadur pledged complete cooperation to the anti-Corridor Movement and suggested community-based videos to be recorded and shown in villages to highlight the ill-effects of Corridors.

Leaders and citizens from all the six states have shared their knowledge and pledged to continue the struggle together whatever may be the fate. Dipak Dholakia Ji chaired the meeting in the presence of a large number of citizens and activists. It was decided that a state level coordination committee will keep watch of the activities in the state and connect with people and other organizations taking the social movement ahead for keeping alive the largest democracy.

Vol. 48, No. 20, Nov 22 - 28, 2015